Saturday, September 6, 2008

Baby's in the punch bowl and all bets are off

Besides shushing people and tucking in stray wisps of hair, librarians like labeling things and putting them in groups. Our intentions are honorable - we're trying to create connections. We want you to find both what you're looking for and what you're not looking for but will love when you discover it.

Unfortunately, many creative spirits resist our efforts at pigeon-holing. They cross boundaries and jump genres and lead us to worry that you, their perfect audience, might miss them. Three bands from our recent crop of such freespirits are showcased here:

The Devil Makes Three is our poster child: a post-punk, neo-traditional, country-folk, rockabilly jug band on the very verge of making it big, perhaps really big. Those lucky enough to have heard them at the Iron Post this summer know that this 3-member acoustic band can rock the house. It was also clear that there will be much bigger venues in their future. Pete Bernhard's lyrics give the group their edge - both in "post-punk" terms and future prospects. This is a youthful group; for those of a different age it was bittersweet to contemplate the possible changes ahead for them. But as the man says, "I won't be praying for you, so don't be praying, don't be praying for me."

Prayers or no, The Devil Makes Three played recently in a heavenly-conceived concert in the East Village with Hoots & Hellmouth, another acoustic roots-based group, this one out of Philadelphia. Self-described as playing "new music for old souls" Hoots & Hellmouth have country overtones with a rocking tendency to jam. I missed that concert, you probably did too - but your library has their CD! Hoots & Hellmouth go for the same hard-driving stand-up bass as the Devil Makes Three, but their lyrics and overall feel are more rollicking than edgy, and they've added a mandolin and occasional drums to the mix.

Mandolin magician Chris Thile, formerly with Nickel Creek, continues to press the limits in his latest endeavor, with a new group called The Punch Brothers. This quintet brings together 5 bluegrass veterans with traditional bluegrass instrumentation (mandolin, fiddle, guitar, banjo, bass) playing anything but traditional bluegrass. Set aside all preconceptions, otherwise a first listen might leave you reeling! If so, persevere! This progressive bluegrass jazz with a touch of the avant garde repays repeated listening.

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